Baltimore News: Majolica Mania at the Walters, Maryland’s Pandemic Surplus, & Frederick Douglass’ Ireland Exile

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Photos: 2022 Maryland Dancesport Competition

This week’s news includes: Madeline Stratton’s exhibition at Hamiltonian Gallery, the curtain comes up at the Hippodrome, Majolica Mania at The Walters, why Maryland’s fiscal surplus is a disaster, the Museum J.E.D.I. podcast, and more reporting from Real News Network, Baltimore Magazine, Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Brew, and other local and independent news sources.



A woman fills her car at a gas station in Annapolis, Maryland, on May 12, 2021. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Maryland’s Huge Surplus Two Years into the Pandemic is Bad, Actually
by Brandon Soderberg
Published March 16 in The Real News

Excerpt: Last week, it was announced that the state of Maryland is now looking at a budget surplus of $7.5 billion over the next three fiscal years.

In 2021, when Maryland announced a $2.5 billion surplus, the existence of the surplus was positioned as an example of “fiscal responsibility” by elected officials. At the time, Battleground Baltimore pointed outthat many Baltimoreans asked a very good question: What exactly is “responsible” about not spending money on Marylanders in need during an unprecedented event like the COVID-19 pandemic?

“So what you’re saying is we can afford the new HVAC systems in crumbling schools,” one Twitter user said, referring to the frequent heating and air conditioning problems in Baltimore City’s severely underfunded public schools.



Reliquaries, 2020–2022, mixed media on wood, dimensions variable. Photo: Vivian Marie Doering.

Madeline Stratton: We Were Here | The Heightened Sense of Belonging
by Danielle O’Steen, Ph.D.
Published March 16 in Hamiltonian Arts + East City Art

Excerpt: There is an odd familiarity in the objects that Washington-based artist Madeline Stratton uses in her sculptures and reliefs. Items like a door knocker, a hinge, a bracket, or a screen door all appear as components in the abstract artworks that populate her exhibition at Hamiltonian Artists titled We Were Here. Stratton has given these old objects a new life, covering them with Day Glo colors and shiny, bedazzled surfaces. While her previous work focused on replicating domestic spaces and memories, We Were Here has a looser attachment to history, playfully evoking past moments or places through overlooked, everyday objects.

We Were Here is a cohesive installation filled with Stratton’s cast of characters. The colorful energy of Stratton’s artworks evokes the sculptural paintings of Elizabeth Murray, or Jessica Stockholder’s absurdist installations of familiar objects. The front wall of Stratton’s show, for instance, is filled with the artist’s Reliquaries on a series of fringed, hanging shelves. In the title, she references the reliquary, or a venerated container for sacred items, by elevating scrap materials from her studio, which fill each ledge. She reclaims and refashions these bits and pieces with electric colors and dynamic patterning. The objects, culled over a period of two years, are souvenirs or artifacts from Stratton’s workspace, gathered together like a village of sculptural creatures.



The Walters Art Museum’s restored mansion and exhibit space known as Hackerman House will open to the public this weekend for the first time in more than two years. Image via Google Streetview.

After two years, the Walters Art Museum’s Hackerman House reopens to the public this weekend with Majolica exhibit
by Ed Gunts
Published March 11 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Although the Walters Art Museum was open for most of last year following the COVID-19 related lockdowns of 2020, an important part of its Mount Vernon campus has remained off limits.

That will change this weekend, when the restored mansion and exhibit space known as Hackerman House finally opens to the public for the first time in more than two years.

From March 13 to Aug. 7, the former Thomas-Jencks-Gladding residence at 1 West Mount Vernon Place will be the setting for “Majolica Mania,” an exhibit that highlights the ceramic art form known as majolica.

Majolica is a type of clay pottery that is coated with enamel, ornamented with paint and glazed. The Walters’ exhibit will feature 350 examples that show the many ways it has been used over the years, and the ties it has to Baltimore.

The Walters has scheduled a preview of the “Majolica Mania” exhibit for museum supporters on Saturday, March 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit officially opens to the public on March 13, when hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On March 26, the museum has scheduled a lecture entitled “Majolica in Baltimore and Beyond,” from 2 to 3 p.m.



A young Frederick Douglass. —Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On St. Patrick’s Day: Remembering Frederick Douglass’ Exile in Ireland
by Ron Cassie
Published March 16 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo! the chattel becomes a man.—Frederick Douglass writing of his time in Ireland

On August 16, 1845, 27-year-old Frederick Douglass left Boston on a steamship for Liverpool and his eventual arrival in Dublin, Ireland, landing just as The Great Famine was beginning. A few months earlier, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave—in which he recounted his experience in bondage and ambition to become a free man—had been published to tremendous success. Selling 4,500 copies in its first three months, the best-selling autobiography quickly made Douglass—who had escaped slavery seven years earlier from Baltimore’s docks, where he’d worked as a ship’s caulker—the most famous Black person in America. The notoriety came with a bounty, however. Douglass’ newfound prominence sparked death threats, as well as increased the risk of his recapture and forced return to Maryland under the Fugitive Slave Act.

To avoid harm, Douglass’ friends and mentors—including William Lloyd Garrison, the Maine-born abolitionist and publisher of the antislavery newspaper The Liberator—suggested a book and speaking tour of Great Britain, where slavery had been abolished in 1833. The British Isles still maintained a strong network of anti-slavery organizations. Garrison saw Douglass’ tour as a chance to cement relationships with British abolitionists and raise the U.S. anti-slavery movement’s profile internationally. (In 1829, Garrison had come to work in Baltimore, where he served as co-editor of the abolitionist newspaper, Genius of Universal Emancipation, and called out local newspapers for accepting ads for slave auctions.) Reluctant initially, Douglass eventually agreed, leaving his wife and two children behind as he sailed across the Atlantic for the first time.



The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hansen is currently appearing at the Hippodrome Theatre. Credit: Matthew Murphy

Turning the Lights Back On: Evan Hansen at the Hippodrome
by Karen Nutkin
Published March 16 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: I knew Dear Evan Hansen would be sad, but I didn’t expect it to be so funny.

A show about loneliness, depression and the warp of social media might seem too on-the-nose after two years of pandemic. Not so. Seeing it live, surrounded by a laughing, appreciative audience at our own beautiful, familiar Hippodrome Theatre, was sheer joy.

A woman behind me savored every exchange between the socially awkward main character and the friends and family in his life.

She laughed when Evan Hansen’s maybe-girlfriend accuses him of apologizing too much, and he can’t help but blurt out, “I’m sorry.” She let out an approving “um hum” when he called out his single mother for leaving him to fend for his own dinner most nights.

At intermission, another woman, chatting excitedly with her friends, raved about the singing voice of Stephen Christopher Anthony, the talented actor who gives the titular main character an endearing mix of sit-com timing and deadpan teen sarcasm that masks a desperate yearning to be seen and understood.

As it happens, I had tickets to see Dear Evan Hansen at the Hippodrome in 2020, but, well, you know what happened. COVID-19 came and all the theaters closed.

The Hippodrome re-opened in September 2021 with a full slate of its Broadway Series shows. The new run for Evan Hansen is just five days, ending March 20, but I was still surprised to see the theater nearly full on a Tuesday night.



Museum J.E.D.I. Podcast
hosted by Omar Eaton-Martinez

The Museum JEDI (Justice. Equity. Diversity. Inclusion) Show holds space for discussions that intersect museums and social justice. These conversations will include topics like:

  • The interrogation of museums as colonial projects
  • Inclusive museum leadership
  • Decolonizing museums
  • Restorative justice in museums
  • Institution building

…and much more

Our guests include thought leaders, scholars, practitioners who center their work in JEDI in museums and other institutions that highlight history, art, culture and science.

There is also a special series that honors the icons of the field called #WeStandOnTheirShoulders. This series was created to help people understand that there has been a long trajectory of museum professionals who have been lifting up the voices of marginalized peoples for decades.

Here is a brief description of Season One:

A conversation with Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko and Dr. Chris Taylor, Co-editors of the new book “The Inclusive Museum Leader”. We talked about the creation of this book project which is a collection of essays (chapters) by thought leaders in the field. I wrote chapter 6 titled, “How Should Inclusive Museum Leadership Respond to COVID-(16)19?” ready to be viewed –

A conversation with Dr. Robert “Bert” Davis and Dr. Tonya Matthews, who are leading two black museums respectively: America’s Black Holocaust Museum (Milwaukee) and the International African American Museum (Charleston). They both have storied careers in DEAI working in STEM-focused institutions and are now at black museums doing this type of social justice work.

A conversation with the iconic Dr. Marta Moreno Vega. A Black Puerto Rican woman who has a long career of institution building. She has founded organizations like the Harlem-based Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI); Creative Justice Initiative in NYC and the Corredor Afro (Puerto Rico). Early in her career she was the second director of El Museo del Barrio. This episode will be part of a special series I call #WeStandOnTheirShoulders where I highlight the careers of trailblazers and pioneers.

A conversation with the Center for Restorative History, which is part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. I had the staff of CRH, including the Founding Director Tsione Wolde-Michael on to talk about this new center and its social justice centric approach.

The Museum JEDI website is The other three episodes will be available on this website by Sunday March 20, 2022.



Poppleton residents hold up “Save Our Block” signs at a meeting at Mother Mary Lange Catholic School. In front row in black-and-white jacket, La Cité executive vice president, Ian Arias. (Fern Shen)

Amid demolition and stalled development, Poppleton remains in limbo
by Fern Shen
Published March 14 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: For months Poppleton residents, fearing further displacement and demolition in their small West Baltimore neighborhood, were told they could express their views and ask questions at a community meeting.

Questions like: Would the historic Sarah Ann Street houses, inhabited by Black families for over 150 years, be torn down? Would homeowners Sonia and Curtis Eaddy be able to save their rowhouse from being taken by the city?

So when about 100 people faced a slew of city officials last Thursday and the topic of La Cité Development’s plans came up, Sonia Eaddy rose to speak.

But those in charge of the meeting refused to hand her the microphone.

“Hers is the house! The Eaddy house!” someone called out as members of the crowd grumbled.

“Yes, I’m aware. But both Ms. Eaddy and Ms. Carroll have already spoken,” said Scott C. Davis, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services.

“We have several other things that we would like to talk about this evening.”

A rule that had not been stated at the outset of the meeting was then invoked: only one question per person. Since Eaddy had previously asked a question on another topic, she was told she could ask no more.

“Shame!” someone called out as the Carrollton Avenue resident glumly sat down.



City Council President Nick Mosby speaks to MSNBC in 2021 about getting students back to school amid the pandemic. (nick.mosby Instagram)

The feds point to the alleged criminal behavior of Nick Mosby
by Mark Reutter
Published March 15 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Over the last year, after it was reported that the FBI had served a subpoena on Nick Mosby at his City Hall office, his involvement in activities that sparked the criminal investigation of his wife, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, has been unclear.

Occupying the second highest elected post in city government (after the mayor), Mosby sets the legislative agenda as president of the City Council and chairs the Board of Estimates that approves hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts.

While his wife hired the bombastic A. Scott Bolden as her defense attorney, Mosby has responded to the federal investigation quietly.

State election filings show that he used $40,000 in campaign funds to retain a prominent D.C. tax lawyer, Caroline Ciraolo, while forming with his wife an online “Mosby Legal Defense Fund” whose contributors and disbursements have so far been kept hidden.

In regard to his official duties, Mosby is little seen by the public and, sources say, little heard from by government colleagues. Last week, for example, he did not attend Mayor Brandon Scott’s announcement of major city plans to tackle the vacant house issue.

See also:

Marilyn Mosby, the Trials of Keith Davis, and the Death of Tyrone West
by Brandon Soderberg
Published March 11 in The Real News



Graphic by Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association.

Implementing Anton’s Law in Maryland
by Miranda S. Spivack and Rebecca Snyder
Published in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: A community group in Montgomery County was asked to pay $95,000 for copies of police discipline and complaint records, which, under a 2021 change in Maryland law, are no longer automatically private.

Local public defenders in Baltimore seeking those records have been told to pay as little as $10 to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office but as much as $224,000 to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office and nearly $500,000 to the Montgomery County Police Department.

Reporters in Washington and Baltimore and student journalists at the University of Maryland say they have received some internal police discipline records they’ve requested, but also have encountered long delays and huge fees.

Anton’s Law, formally known as the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, went into effect on Oct. 1, 2021. The measure makes internal police discipline and complaint records available to the public, erasing an exemption that had placed them off limits under the Maryland Public Information Act. Until Anton’s Law was enacted, members of the public could not find out if police officers in Maryland had been disciplined for misconduct or were the subject of numerous complaints reviewed by internal police investigators.

But five months since taking effect, Anton’s Law has not yet lived up to its promise.



A protester in Annapolis last year rallies against gerrymandering. (Brian Witte/AP)

Claims of partisan gerrymandering in Md. congressional map go to trial
by Meagan Flynn
Published March 15 in Washington Post

Excerpt: Maryland Republicans seeking to throw out the state’s congressional map before the state’s rescheduled primary elections in July will argue in a trial this week that Democrats in the General Assembly drew an illegally gerrymandered map to maximize partisan gain.

The bench trial over Maryland’s new congressional map — passed on a party-line vote in the General Assembly in December — kicked off Tuesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, where the state is defending against claims from two Republican lawsuits that the map violates Maryland’s constitution.

Separately on Tuesday, the Maryland Court of Appeals — which is hearing challenges to Maryland’s legislative redistricting map affecting state lawmakers — moved the state’s June 28 primary elections to July 19 as the litigation continues.



Header Image: Frederick Douglass in Ireland in the 1880s. —Courtesy of Luke C. Dillon via Wikimedia Commons

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